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Nancy Birdsall is president emeritus and a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, a policy-oriented research institution that opened its doors in Washington, DC in October 2001. Prior to launching the center, Birdsall served for three years as senior associate and director of the Economic Reform Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Her work at Carnegie focused on issues of globalization and inequality, as well as on the reform of the international financial institutions.
From 1993 to 1998, Birdsall was executive vice-president of the Inter-American Development Bank, the largest of the regional development banks, where she oversaw a $30 billion public and private loan portfolio. Before joining the Inter-American Development Bank, she spent 14 years in research, policy, and management positions at the World Bank, most recently as director of the Policy Research Department.
Birdsall has been researching and writing on economic development issues for more than 25 years. Her most recent work focuses on the relationship between income distribution and economic growth and the role of regional public goods in development.
Birdsall is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Food Policy Research Council (IFPRI), of the African Population and Health Research Center, and of Mathematica. She has chaired the board of the International Center for Research on Women and has served on the boards of the Social Science Research Council, Overseas Development Council, and Accion. She has also served on committees and working groups of the National Academy of Sciences.
Birdsall holds a PhD in economics from Yale University and an MA in international relations from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Putting Education to Work in Egypt, by Nancy Birdsall and Lesley O'Connell. Prepared for Conference, Growth Beyond Stabilization: Prospects for Egypt, sponsored by The Egyptian Center for Economic Studies in collaboration with the Center for Institutional Reform and the Informal Sector, University of Maryland; the Harvard Institute for International Development, and the US Agency for International Development, February 3-4, 1999, Cairo, Egypt. March 1999.
"Intergenerational Mobility in Latin America: Deeper Markets and Better Schools Make a Difference," with Jere R. Behrman and Miguel Szekely, in New Markets, New Opportunities? Economic and Social Mobility in a Changing World (1999)
"The U.S. and the Social Challenge in Latin America: The New Agenda Needs New Instruments," with Nora Lustig and Lesley O'Connell, in The Search for Common Ground: U.S. National Interests and the Western Hemisphere in a New Century (W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1999)
"Deep Integration and Trade Agreements: Good for Developing Countries?" with Robert Z. Lawrence in Global Public Goods: International Cooperation in the 21st Century (Oxford University Press, 1999)
"No Tradeoff: Efficient Growth Via More Equal Human Capital Accumulation in Latin America," in Beyond Trade-Offs: Market Reforms and Equitable Growth in Latin America (1998)
"That Silly Inequality Debate," in Foreign Policy, May/June 2002
"Education in Latin America: Demand and Distribution are Factors that Matter," with Juan Luis Londoño and Lesley O'Connell in CEPAL Review 66, December 1998
"Life is Unfair: Inequality in the World," in Foreign Policy, Summer 1998
"Public Spending on Higher Education in Developing Countries: Too Much or Too Little?" in Economics of Education Review, 1996
One way to help solve the migration policy gridlock in the U.S. and other rich countries is to expand legal channels for poor people from developing countries to work temporarily at low skill jobs, according to a new book from CGD.
"The gains to people in poor countries from labor mobility are enormous compared to everything else on the development agenda," says Lant Pritchett, the author of the new book, Let Their People Come: Breaking the Gridlock on Global Labor Mobility.
Pritchett cites estimates that if rich countries were to permit a mere 3 percent increase in the size of their labor force by easing restrictions on labor mobility, the benefits to citizens of poor countries would be $305 billion a year--almost twice the combined annual benefits of full trade liberalization ($86 billion); foreign aid ($70 billion) and debt relief (about $3 billion in annual debt service savings).
"Both rich and poor countries benefit when rich economies admit low-skilled workers," asserts Pritchett. In Hong Kong and Singapore, for example, foreigners working as housekeepers and nannies account for 7 percent of the labor force (compared to only 0.3 percent in the U.S.). These temporary household workers make it possible for more highly skilled women to work outside the home, raising national income by between 1.3 and 3.3 percent, and increasing tax revenues from the additional employment.
Globally, because of such benefits, a 3 percent increase in rich country labor forces through legal, temporary labor would result in a net annual gain of $56 billion to current rich country residents, on top of the $305 billion annual direct gain to migrant workers themselves and their families.
"Everybody knows that trade, aid and debt relief are development issues," says CGD president Nancy Birdsall. "Labor mobility is like the 800-pound gorilla in the room that nobody wants to discuss. Lant's book will change that."
The book is the latest publication from CGD's Migration and Development initiative, which aims to put migration at the center of the development policy agenda, and to bring solid evidence about the development impact of labor mobility to the rich world migration policy debate.
"Much of the research on migration and development has focused on remittances but most of the impact on sending countries lies elsewhere and is poorly understood," says CGD research fellow Michael Clemens, who coordinates the initiative. Clemens recently published a new dataset on Health Professional Emigration from Africa, as part of his study of the impact of the exodus of sub-Saharan nurses and doctors on health in the region.
A previous CGD book on migration, Give Us Your Best and Brightest: The Global Hunt for Talent and Its Impact on the Developing World, by Devesh Kapur and John McHale, examined the impact of skilled migration from developing countries and suggested ways to make such movements more supportive of development.
The temporary legal worker program that Pritchett proposes would focus on temporary, low-skilled labor and would separate labor mobility for such workers from the debate over migration and citizenship. It has two particularly innovative components:
Labor-sending countries take responsibility for ensuring that temporary workers actually return home.
Rich countries take responsibility for certifying labor shortages in specific industries.
Pritchett argues that these steps would help to address popular anxieties about migration, for example, that foreign workers will strain government budgets and steal jobs.
A key element in his proposed package is to ensure that temporary workers really return home when their stay is over. One way to do this, he says, is to reduce the sending country's future quota by one worker for each worker who fails to return home as scheduled. Pritchett discusses several approaches, including the pros and cons of establishing and regulating commercial labor brokers.
Pritchett suggests that rich countries enter into bilateral agreements with developing countries to govern temporary labor. He predicts that agreements between just two countries, or between small groups of countries, will be more politically acceptable than an overall agreement through a large multilateral organization such as the World Trade Organization. "For many reasons--security, historical links, concerns about culture clash--host countries will be more willing to engage in bilateral agreements with selected sending countries," he says.
To enhance the development impact of temporary workers on their countries of origin, Pritchett suggests a wide range of measures, including enabling the sending country to collect taxes and public pension contributions and lowering the cost of sending remittances.
Download or buy the book
Critics allege that the World Bank is deeply flawed. Yet the world needs a strong World Bank to help manage development and the related global challenges of the 21st century. Do the Bank's shortcomings put its future at risk? If so, can the Bank be rescued? Rescuing the World Bank, a new book that includes a CGD working group report and selected essays edited by CGD president Nancy Birdsall, offers timely perspectives on challenges that are crucial to the Bank’s future success.
*This post is co-authored by Ruth Levine
In the Washington Post today, three doctors with sterling reputations in the AIDS world (Lola Daré, executive secretary of the African Council for Sustainable Health Development International and a member of CGD's working group on IMF programs and health spending; Paul Farmer, pioneer of new AIDS treatment programs in Haiti and Rwanda; and chief of Harvard Medical School's Department of Social Medicine Jim Kim, a member of CGD's working group on the Global Fund), call on the Bush Administration to spend $8 billion on training of community workers, nurses and doctors in Africa to deal with AIDS treatment.
Their proposition that many more community-level health workers be deployed to provide essential services, breaking the implicit and costly monopoly of health "professionals" on health delivery, makes eminent sense. But more money for training, without complementary institutional changes that fundamentally alter the incentives for workers at all levels, won't get the outcomes sought by those who are working on AIDS, or any other health challenges.